Not everyone has had the privilege of attending our Adult Bible Study, “Communication that Honors God,” so it seems fitting to offer a sample of the wisdom we’ve gained from God’s word. We’ve completed the section identifying sins of the tongue. The most common of these is complaining. Numbers 11 leaves no uncertainty about how God feels about complaining.
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his fire was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah [“burning”], because fire from the LORD had burned among them.
Wow. The LORD knows fully the toxic effects complaining has on both the complainer and those who have to listen.
What’s interesting is that these folks did NOT learn their lesson. They started their “pity party” up again in the very next verse! They complained about the lack of meat in their diet. The Lord sent so much quail to them that the birds were knee deep on encampment (11:31)! “Meat’s back on the menu!” they cried.
But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people and he struck them dead with a severe plague.
How’s that for God’s justice, severely expressed? You would think that after these two incidents, the people would learn not to complain. But no, the “complain train” left the station again after the spies searched out the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve voted against going in. They were fearful but blamed God for having put them in this “impossible” situation. Here is God’s reply:
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, “As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall - every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb, son of Jephunneh and Joshua son on Nun.”
So what can we do to curb complaining in our congregation? As it turns out, there are some very practical steps to be taken.
- Everyone must earn the “right” to complain by offering at least one compliment first. (It’s also called “constructive criticism.”)
- Everyone is limited to one complaint at a time.
- No complaints can be made in anger or out of a “control spirit.”
- Every complaint must be matched by an offer to help.
- Every complaint must be made by at least two witnesses.